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Saudi King sacks top military chief, senior officials in major shake-up


IANS Riyadh
The Saudi King has sacked the country's top military officers, including the Chief of Staff, and several deputy ministers in a broad shake-up that saw the monarch issue 39 royal decrees.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on Monday issued the orders that also included the dismissal of the commanders of the country's air defence force, land forces and strategic missiles force.
The military Chief of Staff General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan was "terminated" and replaced by First Lieutenant General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwayli. New chiefs were appointed to the country's air defence and land forces, according to royal decrees published by the state media.
No reason for the sackings was given.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Defence Minister, is believed to be behind various recent shake-ups in the country. He is first in line to inherit the throne from his 82-year-old father, King Salman.
In 2017, dozens of prominent Saudi figures, including princes, ministers and billionaires, were locked up in Riyadh's five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel as the prince led a drive against corruption and abuse of power.
Several new deputies in economic and security-related ministries as well as a handful of new city mayors were appointed, including Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah as Deputy Minister of labour and social development, a rare senior post for a woman in the deeply conservative kingdom.
Prince Turki bin Talal was appointed new Deputy Governor of the southwest Asir province. He is the brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was detained in the anti-corruption drive and released two months later.
Saudi analyst Ahmed al-Towayan, speaking on Saudi state television, said the new appointments were "pumping young blood" into local government while elevating young commanders into top military posts.
The conservative kingdom has also started accepting applications for women to join the military for the first time in the rank of soldier.
Applicants have to be born and raised in Saudi Arabia, between the age of 25 and 35 and at least 155 cm tall. They can't be married to a citizen of a foreign country, and their weight and height have to be "proportional", according to a notice posted on the Interior Ministry's website.
Allowing women in the military follows royal decrees that permitted women to drive and attend football games at stadiums. Earlier this year, the kingdom lifted a ban on cinemas.

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First Published: Feb 27 2018 | 2:42 PM IST

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